Betty and her friends.
I was not a avid comic book reader. Just the few here and there. Archie and the Comics was one of the many comics I had occasionally glance through while in a book shop. Although in that short while, like many others living in their imaginary loner world, Jughead was my favorite character too.
So when one fine day I saw Riverdale on my Netflix suggested list, I was intrigued to say the least. The timing was perfect, I had just finished watching Dear White People which was a bloody good show itself (I don't know why that didn't prompt me to write a post about it!) Anyway, moving forward skeptically I started the show and in the opening few seconds, you are part of the nostalgia. The Pop’s Chock-Lit Shoppe, Riverdale High school, the Twilight Drive-in all come rushing back to you with the memories when you had read them (which were not many to be honest) but they were crisp and clear.
Soon, you are hit with images that feel like right out of Twin Peaks and you suddenly realize Riverdale is not the way you left it in childhood. It has grown and how! And we have our lovely Jughead as the narrator showing us around this dark Riverdale. I had decided I won’t give away the plot line and I stand by it. All I can say is the show is a refresh to our old childhood characters. Unlike the comics, the star of the series is our very own Betty Cooper who is darker than ever and is fighting with her own identity helping us understand why in the first place she has been fan-girling over Archie for so long and then unravelling many more mysteries of Riverdale.
The series tries to connect those strings and relationships that invisibly existed in the comics thus delivering a fresh new content. Raymond Williams in his book, Marxism and Literature writes about the dominant, residual, and emergent cultural moments:
Emergent cultural innovation comprises innovation comprises innovative practices that produce new meanings, values and interrelationships. Emergence is thus not the mere appearance of novelty; it is the site of dialectical opposition to the dominant–the promise of overcoming, transgressing, evading, renegotiating, or bypassing the dominant–and not simply delivering more of the same under the blandishments of the ‘new’ or the contemporary.
The series while maintaining its legacy re-appropriates itself in this modern world by filling those gaps left by the comic. Its similar to a type revival project. While reviving a typeface from history, its appropriate to not just imitate the previous style but understand why the style was created in the first place. As a designer you need to be aware of the technological limitations, society restrictions and such that influence the design and then only can the style progress in the real sense.
The series at times, feels like a mix of Gossip Girls + Twin peaks with a soundtrack of Stranger things. But it seems to work for the tone it tries to set. It has its own dumb moments. But they never last long. They exist to remind us that we are still watching the life of Betty and her friends. I finished the show in 3 days and I am left wanting for more. The way it ended, I am guessing we are going to see many more of it in the coming years. Overall, I can say, the series didnt tarnish the comics but only lifted it and I am sure would make quite a few people dig through their old comic archives.
p.s : I am secretly hoping they make a Netflix show out of the Famous Five series. Please?